Mr. Smith Gets a Challenger
An attorney with close ties to Queens County politics is planning to challenge embattled State Senator Malcolm Smith next year.
Mr. Smith, still reeling from an arrest on corruption charges earlier this year, is openly despised by his fellow Senate Democrats after caucusing briefly with a breakaway faction of Democrats that govern the Senate with Republicans and is considered a major target in 2014.
State Senator Malcolm Smith may be facing federal corruption charges, but LL Cool J is cool with it.
The ’90s heartthrob, rapper and star of NCIS: Los Angeles returned to his childhood neighborhood in southeast Queens yesterday to co-host a basketball tournament with the indicted pol, who recently pleaded not-guilty to federal corruption charges for allegedly orchestrating an elaborate scheme to get himself elected mayor.
“The beauty about the American system is that you’re innocent ’til proven guilty,” the rapper told Politicker as he greeted excited fans at the annual basketball event when asked about the scandal.
Good Will Huntley
She may have already admitted to corruption, but it was not her fault that she was prosecuted, former State Senator Shirley Huntley repeatedly insisted today. She provided many excuses.
A month from serving a year-long prison sentence, Ms. Huntley claimed, for example, that she was singled out for an investigation because she didn’t tell her constituents that the current attorney general’s electoral opponent was “a racist and only locks up black people” during the campaign.
“He was upset with me about certain things that he wanted me to do,” Ms. Huntley said of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a former colleague in the State Senate before he ran for higher office in 2010. Mr. Schneiderman faced a crowded field in the Democratic primary, including Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, whom Ms. Huntley alleged she was asked to malign.
State Senator Malcolm Smith, who has been accused of trying to bribe his way onto the ballot to run for mayor, has seemingly lost interest in the job.
“Right now I want to continue to do what I’m doing as state senator and try to do the best I can for the constituents that I’m still representing,” the embattled Queens lawmaker said when asked about his mayoral ambitions in a recent interview with CBS6 Albany.
It is a question few in the New York political establishment dare to ask publicly: is the seemingly endless string of indictments and arrests of elected officials a conspiracy against minorities in power?
But there was Queens State Sen. James Sanders Jr., bellowing in a theater with a preacher’s rhythm, more than implying last night that the recent arrests of black elected officials like Assemblyman Eric Stevenson, State Sen. Malcolm Smith and State Sen. John Sampson were not coincidental. Even State Sen. Shirley Huntley, who admitted to stealing funds earmarked for her district’s underprivileged children and was sentenced Thursday for her crimes, could have been linked to a conspiracy, Mr. Sanders said.
Ironically, Mr. Sanders defeated Ms. Huntley last year–after she was indicted–and took her seat in the State Senate.
Law & Order
The names caught up in ex-State Sen. Shirley Huntley’s wire-tapping efforts were revealed Wednesday afternoon, leaving elected officials and staffers scrambling to respond to news that they were most likely the subjects of ongoing federal investigations.
The U.S. Attorney’s office had revealed that eight of the nine individuals secretly recorded by Ms. Huntley in an effort to minimize her sentence on embezzlement charges “remain the subjects of ongoing criminal investigations.” And while some offices appeared to be prepared for the news, others seemed completely caught-off-guard. Others still have yet to comment.
The list includes a slew of Democratic lawmakers, including City Councilman Ruben Wills, State Sen. Eric Adams, who is running for Brooklyn borough president, Sen. Jose Peralta, who is running for Queens borough president, and Sen. John Sampson, who was arrested earlier this week on unrelated embezzlement charges.
Two weeks ago, Democratic State Sen. Malcolm Smith was arrested and charged with trying to bribe his way into the Republican mayoral primary, prompting cries for reform from both ends of the political spectrum. Today, Governor Andrew Cuomo rolled out a series of proposals that he hopes will address many of these concerns.
“You’ve heard the expression pay to play, this is pay to run,” Mr. Cuomo said at a press conference announcing the measures. “The allegations that the minor parties basically, on occasion, have used campaign contributions to determine who gets the line and it’s almost that the line goes to the highest bidder.”
State Sen. Malcolm Smith, arrested and charged last week as part of a wide-ranging bribery scandal, looks like he could have electoral troubles in addition to his legal woes. Jason Hilliard, a long-time staffer to Congressman Gregory Meeks, is actively mulling a challenge to Mr. Smith, a source close to Hilliard told Politicker.
While Mr. Hilliard declined to discuss his bid, the source said he had been considering the challenge even before last week’s indictment, as he wanted to “enact a more progressive agenda” than Mr. Smith had been advocating. The source addded that Mr. Hilliard “based [the] decision … to serve as a champion” on issues like the standard of living in southeastern Queens.
Governor Andrew Cuomo is not happy about the barrage of corruption charges hitting various New York lawmakers throughout the week, including State Senator Malcolm Smith, City Councilman Dan Halloran and Assemblyman Eric Stevenson. Accordingly, Mr. Cuomo released a statement this afternoon detailing his disgust.
“The allegations of public corruption by City and State officials revealed this week are appalling,” the governor declared.
Another Shoe Drops
Moments ago, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office announced yet another New York State elected official, Bronx Assemblyman Eric Stevenson, has been arrested and accused of taking bribes. Earlier this week, New York’s political world was rocked when corruption charges were leveled against State Senator Malcolm Smith and Councilman Dan Halloran. Mr. Stevenson’s charges will be formally unsealed at noon today.
“Stevenson is accused of taking bribes in exchange for official acts, which included drafting, proposing, and agreeing to enact legislation that would benefit the co-defendants’ businesses,” the release announcing the press conference declared. “Two of the other defendants are also charged in connection with their payment of a bribe to another Assemblyman, who was actually cooperating with the Government at the time. The charges include conspiracy to deprive New York State and its citizens of Eric Stevenson’s honest services, federal programs and Travel Act bribery conspiracy, federal programs bribery, and Travel Act bribery conspiracy.”